The most enduring image of cocaine abuse in popular culture is Scarface's Tony Montana plunging his face into a mountain of cocaine on his desk. In reality, Tony Montana probably would have died of an overdose given access to that much cocaine and having that little self-control with it. It takes a lot less than the grotesque amounts he was abusing to potentially kill someone. So how much cocaine does it take to overdose, exactly?
The exact amount of cocaine it takes to overdose varies from individual to individual, and will also depend on how strong the cocaine is. Biological factors (such as weight, other health issues and sensitivity to stimulants) come into play as well as the individual's tolerance for stimulants. Tolerance is built up with ongoing use of cocaine, and causes users to need larger and larger amounts to get the same effects as before.
A common estimate of the minimum lethal dose of cocaine in medical reference materials is from 1 to 5 grams. This assumes fairly pure cocaine and an average adult user with no other enhanced risk factors. A typical "bump" of cocaine is well under 100mg, so it would take a particularly large dose in one sitting to kill most fully grown adults. However, there's no guarantee that amounts under a gram are safe to ingest.
Of course, just because cocaine is cut does not mean it is safer, or presents less of a health risk. Impure cocaine is often diluted with drugs meant for farm animals, insecticides and banned painkillers among other dangerous substances.
Overdose risk is also greatly increased when cocaine is mixed with other types of illicit drugs. The notorious "speedball", a mixture of heroin and cocaine, has been responsible for many high-profile celebrity deaths. Another major risk is the mixing of cocaine and "club drugs" like ecstasy and ketamine that happens commonly at raves, EDM shows and nightclubs.
Cocaine users experiencing an overdose often sweat profusely, become agitated and have a dangerously elevated heart rate. Blood pressure may also shoot up to dangerous levels. The user will also very often become disoriented and may experience extreme anxiety, tremors or panic attacks. Psychosis and displays of extreme aggression are also not uncommon psychological symptoms of cocaine overdose.
The biggest health risks of a cocaine overdose are death due to organ failure, stroke or heart attack. It is also common for users to experience seizures when they take too large of a dose of cocaine.
An individual experiencing a cocaine overdose will likely become unresponsive and unable to help themselves. If you suspect someone has overdosed on cocaine, it is vital to call 911 and request emergency medical services as quickly as possible.
If the cocaine user is experiencing a seizure, they will usually fall to the ground and may move unpredictably. If they begin twitching, try to get them to a safe area where they can lie down and keep them away from any dangerous objects they might knock onto themselves.
Elevated body temperature is a serious risk to their organs during an overdose. If possible, turn on air conditioning and apply a cold compress to them to help reduce their temperature until medical assistance arrives. Cocaine overdose treatment should only be administered by qualified emergency medical technicians.
Ideally, a cocaine user should undergo rehab before they hit the point where they overdose on the drug. If you or someone you know is abusing cocaine, the first step is to get into medical detox at a licensed and certified rehab facility. This gives the cocaine user a safe space in which to get the drug out of their system and get treatment for any withdrawal symptoms. With detox and a proper follow-up period of treatment, it is possible to beat cocaine addiction.